Martine Ah Heng came to Australia to attend a cake decorating seminar in 2006. Taking advantage of her short visit and seeing Melbourne as a place with good opportunities to build her career – Martine is a trained pastry chef – and pursue her dream to one day have her own food business, she emigrated to Australia and settled in the city in 2010.
Having settled in Melbourne, Martine became fascinated by the new and interesting flavors that the renowned chefs she worked with were using. So she launched The Bakery Lab in 2018 as a side business, using indigenous Australian flavors to make treats to give to friends and family when they visit.
“When I decided to market my products, I did some market research and found that saltine crackers were everyone’s favorite,” recalls Martine. “I believe it was because we were using indigenous flavors that weren’t readily available at the time. My goal is to create nutritious and healthy alternatives to the wheat cookies and crackers normally served at home entertaining or as gifts.
“We believe the hard work and dedication shown by Australian farmers should be rewarded.”
The main ingredient in Martine’s crackers is teff, which she uses with a blend of nutritious seeds such as acacia seeds, saline, native basil, native thyme, hemp seeds, flax, chia, pumpkin, sunflower, sesame and other native Australian ingredients. “All of these nutrient-dense ingredients are essential to a healthy lifestyle and can be found in one small bite,” says Martine.
“Teff is an ancient Ethiopian grain full of nutrients,” says Martine. “It’s a gluten-free whole grain known as the smallest grain in the world. It is part of the staple diet of Ethiopians, who consume teff up to three times a day as their main source of protein.
Teff is becoming one of the most popular alternatives to wheat. It has a higher fiber content than wheat and rice, is rich in probiotics essential for gut health and contains fermentable fiber resistant starch. “This amazing little grain also has three times more iron than meat, contains more calcium than a glass of milk and is high in protein,” Martine enthuses. “Teff also supports immunity by containing all eight essential amino acids, vitamins B and C, potassium, magnesium, copper and zinc. It is especially nutritious for those following a vegan or vegetarian diet.
Martine only uses high quality, sustainably grown teff from a family owned and operated business in Australia. “Our supplier has been in agriculture for four generations now,” explains Martine.
The Australian native ingredients she uses come from Mayi Harvests Native Foods, a family business that has followed traditional methods of collecting plants, fruits and seeds from the earth for food, health and medicine for generations. “The Mayi Harvest community is committed to ensuring that Indigenous Australians are involved, through employment and training, in building a better future within a sustainable Indigenous food industry,” says Martine. “They continue to uphold their traditions through the practice of wild harvesting and traditional land management practices, informed by Kimberley’s indigenous knowledge systems passed down from generation to generation. And The Bakery Lab is committed to supporting them. We believe that the hard work and dedication shown by Australian farmers should be rewarded. »
As for the future, Martine is keen not only to share her crackers with Australians, but also to take them all over the world. “We see our products served in airlines and stocked in hotel mini-bars so travelers can enjoy true Australian flavors,” Martine concludes.
This article first appeared in issue 36 of the Inside Small Business quarterly magazine.